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What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success

Global news, Learning Achievements, Literacy

Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West’s reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known — if it was known for anything at all — as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life — Newsweek ranked it number one last year — and Finland’s national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Finland’s schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model — long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization — Finland’s success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation’s education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.

So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.

And yet it wasn’t clear that Sahlberg’s message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.

* * *

During the afternoon that Sahlberg spent at the Dwight School, a photographer from the New York Times jockeyed for position with Dan Rather’s TV crew as Sahlberg participated in a roundtable chat with students. The subsequent article in the Times about the event would focus on Finland as an “intriguing school-reform model.”

Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. “Oh,” he mentioned at one point, “and there are no private schools in Finland.”

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it’s true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.

The irony of Sahlberg’s making this comment during a talk at the Dwight School seemed obvious. Like many of America’s best schools, Dwight is a private institution that costs high-school students upward of $35,000 a year to attend — not to mention that Dwight, in particular, is run for profit, an increasing trend in the U.S. Yet no one in the room commented on Sahlberg’s statement. I found this surprising. Sahlberg himself did not.

Sahlberg knows what Americans like to talk about when it comes to education, because he’s become their go-to guy in Finland. The son of two teachers, he grew up in a Finnish school. He taught mathematics and physics in a junior high school in Helsinki, worked his way through a variety of positions in the Finnish Ministry of Education, and spent years as an education expert at the OECD, the World Bank, and other international organizations.

Now, in addition to his other duties, Sahlberg hosts about a hundred visits a year by foreign educators, including many Americans, who want to know the secret of Finland’s success. Sahlberg’s new book is partly an attempt to help answer the questions he always gets asked.

From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?

The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do.

For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.

Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.

And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: “Real winners do not compete.” It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

Finally, in Finland, school choice is noticeably not a priority, nor is engaging the private sector at all. Which brings us back to the silence after Sahlberg’s comment at the Dwight School that schools like Dwight don’t exist in Finland.

“Here in America,” Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, “parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It’s the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same.”

Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.

Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

* * *

Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year — or even just the price of a house in a good public school district — and the other “99 percent” is painfully plain to see.

* * *

Pasi Sahlberg goes out of his way to emphasize that his book Finnish Lessons is not meant as a how-to guide for fixing the education systems of other countries. All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States.

Yet Sahlberg doesn’t think that questions of size or homogeneity should give Americans reason to dismiss the Finnish example. Finland is a relatively homogeneous country — as of 2010, just 4.6 percent of Finnish residents had been born in another country, compared with 12.7 percent in the United States. But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn’t lose its edge in education. Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.

Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Teachers College, has addressed the effects of size and homogeneity on a nation’s education performance by comparing Finland with another Nordic country: Norway. Like Finland, Norway is small and not especially diverse overall, but unlike Finland it has taken an approach to education that is more American than Finnish. The result? Mediocre performance in the PISA survey. Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country’s school system than the nation’s size or ethnic makeup.

Indeed, Finland’s population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state — after all, most American education is managed at the state level. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a research organization in Washington, there were 18 states in the U.S. in 2010 with an identical or significantly smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than Finland.

What’s more, despite their many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common. When Finnish policymakers decided to reform the country’s education system in the 1970s, they did so because they realized that to be competitive, Finland couldn’t rely on manufacturing or its scant natural resources and instead had to invest in a knowledge-based economy.

With America’s manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. — as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down — is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland’s experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.

Is that an impossible goal? Sahlberg says that while his book isn’t meant to be a how-to manual, it is meant to be a “pamphlet of hope.”

“When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s, many said it couldn’t be done,” Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. “But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland’s dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn’t be done.”

Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important — as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform — Finland’s experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

The problem facing education in America isn’t the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad.

The Atlantic, 29 December 2011

Comment

Sibal’s RTE Act is just not working

Government run schools, Learning Achievements, Right to Education

15-year old Indian students, who were put through a two-hour international test for the first time, stood second last among 73 countries, only beating Kyrgyzstan when tested on their reading, math and science abilities. In contrast, 25 per cent of the 15-year olds in Shanghai demonstrated advanced mathematical and thinking skills to solve complex problems. The desperate situation calls for a new Right to Education Act.

or is happening, in contrast to what should have happened if the Act were implemented. RTEA says that admissions in private schools should be conducted only through lotteries or some equivalent random process of selection to avoid discrimination.

According to the New Indian Express, Hyderabad, managements of virtually all private schools (with the few exceptions of non-profit-making private schools) in Hyderabad are flouting this norm and conducting tests for both parents and children, now that it is admission time and some 1.5 lakh parents are seeking seats for their little ones in the city’s so-called ‘better’ private schools. These schools also demand capitation fees, which the parents are ready to shell out ‘if the school caters to their requirement’.

Random selection

Let me quote two instances reported in NIEH. In the first instance, the irate parent says, “My child could not make it to a prestigious school last year as they demanded a sum of Rs.1 lakh after assessing my husband’s annual income. We decided to get her admitted to a nearby school. They charged Rs. 30,000 per year. This year we plan to go in for admission to the second standard in the same school”.

In the second instance, the parent says, “My son has good communication skills but the interactive session was hardly anything beyond the few set questions on numbers and colours, apart from daily routine. I feel that the purpose was to estimate the amount me and my husband were willing to spend for a seat. It was humiliating, to say the least. We had little choice but to shell out Rs.65,000 for admission to pre-primary, as it is the only good school close to Madhapur,” where they lived.

The irony is that the schools defend their above action openly, making statements such as, “The lottery system or that of first-come-first-served does not take into account the family” or “School is about grooming and not about Chemistry and Physics” (make out what you wish of that!).

Management of one school says, “We look at parenting skills of the family and, for the child, we look at normal development, hand-eye coordination and basic etiquette such as saying ‘thank you’, during interactive session”.

Worse is the fact that the parents, who can afford to send their children to expensive private schools, too, are in favour of having their children screened. A majority of them are ‘perturbed by the system of lottery instead of written examination for testing’. “And how is it fair to the child who is better?”, they ask.

Parents, who send their children to expensive private schools are also worried about the children coming in contact with the children of poor families if they are admitted according to the 25 per cent quota prescribed for them by RTI.

“What if our children pick up bad habits from them? Is it fair that we pay a large sum of money for admission to a premier institution, and they avail the service for free ?”, asks a parent, whose daughter studies in an international school.

“I send my son to a prestigious private school. Where will children from economically weaker sections fit in, in such an atmosphere ? Such a move will dilute standards”, says another parent. And in Khammam, where a survey was carried out recently, 76 private schools are running without a permit.

Government schools

Let us now look at the Government schools. The RTEA was supposedly designed to make Government schools as good as the better private schools, so that even the affluent would want to send their children there as they would be free. After all, the Central Schools run by the Government of India are amongst the best in the country, with children of all social strata going there, as long as their parents are in a transferable Government job.

Sixty-four per cent of the schools in Andhra Pradesh do not have toilets. So, the girls either do not go to school or learn to hold their thirst. The RTEA emphasised construction of toilets in every school but, perhaps, not one toilet has been added in the last few years in the existing government schools after the RTEA was passed.

Leave aside toilets, virtually all government schools (excepting Central Schools) lack even basic facilities like chairs, benches, drinking water, a good (not dilapidated) building, enough rooms and teachers. No wonder a school building in the old part of Hyderabad city collapsed in July last, injuring five students. No surprise, then, that many schools have few students.

Even the poor cut down every other expense – including that on basic necessities – to send their children to the mushrooming private schools, which have a shine and charge high fees but may not be imparting any better education than the unsatisfactory government schools.

Some crowded areas in cities like Hyderabad do not have enough number of even bad government schools to take care of all the children in the area.

Quality of education

Let us now look at the products of the government schools. Some 71 per cent of the students of Class VIII in the rural schools of Andhra Pradesh cannot divide. Some 42 per cent of them cannot subtract. And 55 per cent cannot even read a Class II Text Book. These are some of the findings reported in the Annual Status of Education Report 2011.

The same report says that less than a third of class III students in rural Indian schools can solve simple two-digit subtraction problems. There has also been an alarming decline in mathematical skills, in the number of children in Class V that are able to read Class II books, and in attendance, over the last year.

At the international level, 15-year old Indian students, who were put for the first time on a global stage, stood only second last, only beating Kyrgyzstan when tested on their reading, math and science abilities. India thus ranked second last among 73 countries that participated in the programme for international student assessment conducted annually by the OECD to evaluate education systems world-wide.

The survey was based on a two-hour test that half a million students were put through. By contrast, ‘more than one quarter of Shanghai’s 15-year old demonstrated advanced mathematical and thinking skills to solve complex problems compared to an OECD average of just three percent. And we want to be counted in the same league’ as China!

It is abundantly clear that we need a new Right to Education Act, which would be implementable and in the interest of all the citizens of the country. The new Act must recognise that if we wish every child in the country to grow up to be a fully responsible citizen, there is no alternative to de facto de-commercialising school education and resorting to a common (neighbourhood) school system, where parents (irrespective of their social status or circumstances of birth) living in a particular locality will have an obligation to send their children to a particular neighbourhood school.

It is only when children of the affluent and privileged go to a government school that there would be enough pressure on the authorities concerned to improve the school in terms of facilities, teachers and standards, as has happened in the Central Schools.

Further, education up to class XII must be free and compulsory as is the case in most other countries. The tragedy is we – the ‘ruling class’ – do not want every child in the country to have sufficient quality education for, in that case, there will be no one left for us to exploit. ‘Where shall we, then, get our household servants from?’

The Tribune, 18 March 2012

Comment

Education in India is at Crossroads

Access to education, Curriculum Development, Finances & Budgets, Learning Achievements, Literacy

Indian culture is a rare manifestation of intense pride in knowledge. India’s historical fabric flaunts great works of knowledge that are not only an important part of India’s heritage, but the world’s heritage. Education has been the greatest leveler for the Indian society rife with divides between caste, regions and religions.

It not only enables social mobility but is also a crucial factor for financial success and status in India.

A report by Ernst & Young says that in a typical Indian household, families spend a high amount of money on education. Only food and transportation account for a higher amount of spending.

The National Sample Survey Organization shows average household expenditure on education in India has risen from 2.55% in 2008 to 7.5% in 201 0. Between 1999 and 2009, Indian household spending on education jumped up by as much as 378% in rural areas and 345% in urban areas.

Additionally, the Central government has announced 24% hike in the budget allocation for education in 2012.

As household and government expenditure on educations zooms, it is interesting that the overall quality of basic education remains poor. This is the result of the flawed attitudes towards education. On one hand, the government thinks that allocating more money to its education budget would reform the poor public education system. On the other hand, the people consider education a means of employment. The parents and kids alike are happy as long as they are able to bag a job with fat package and perks as soon as they graduate. However, this is an alarming trend for a country whose growth prospects largely depend on how it tackles its demographic dividend today.

There appear to be serious fault lines in India’s current education system, which focuses on rote rather than experiential learning. Exams and marks rather than creativity and critical inquiry are the important parts of India’s education. In most schools, memorization is mistaken for learning. Most of what is remembered is quickly forgotten. (How many remember how to take a square root or the formula for sodium nitrate?)

In a society richly steeped in culture, traditions, heritage and multilingualism widespread over the ages, where every major world religion co-exists, we need to reflect on transforming the attitude towards education. Looking at the current state of education in the country, one could not agree more with William J Crocket who asks “ if school is not ‘a people place’, where tears are understood, spirits can take wing, feelings can be heard, where one is accepted as one is, then where else can one be, just oneself?” Our educational system misplaces its focus on ‘knowing’ rather than the ‘different ways of knowing and learning styles’.

A major problem is that our approach to education is wrong, our focus is to get the children “employed” not “educated” – in a curious historical inversion, our educational history interestingly has followed an inverted pyramid from being a nation that was home to the world’s oldest and finest universities in recorded history (Nalanda and Takshila), we have now an education system that cannot even boast of one institute of higher learning amongst the top 100 in the world. The nation at large is complacent, with some isolated islands of excellence like the IIT’s and IIM’s (Indian Institutes of Technology and Management). While the majority of institutions of learning, whether schools or universities, have failed to transform their outlook towards education.

The existing models of learning are reasonably good for developing a disciplined mind, crammed with information. Howard Gardner, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and author of the theory of Multiple Intelligences(MI) recently was asked if there were too many engineers in India, Gardner said: “I’m skeptical about any profession being valorized over others. Who knows what is going to be needed in the next 25 years? In the U.S. and in India, schools should not be preparing people for professions; professions should do that themselves. Instead, schools should prepare them to understand arts and science better. The point of developing intelligence is to become a competent human being.”

While the country’s economy is growing at the rate of 7%, we are not sure at what rate our children’s minds and intellect are expanding.

There is an urgent need to understand education in its deepest and widest sense. In Sri Aurobindo’s words, amongst one of India’s greatest philosopher and thinkers:

“That alone will be a true and living education which helps to bring out to full advantage, makes ready for the full purpose and scope of human life all that is in the individual man, and which at the same time helps him to enter into his right relation with the life, mind and soul of the people to which he belongs and with that great total life, mind and soul of humanity of which he himself is a unit and his people or nation a living, a separate yet inseparable member.”

If this is the true meaning of education, then what passes in its name today in our educational institutions is obviously very far from the mark. The purpose of education cannot be, even at its best, to merely create a literate individual, a skilled technician or a law abiding citizen, these are only the byproducts of a truly great education system. These are essential however they are not adequate in themselves. Nor do they create a well rounded individual or a great nation.

There are change makers working round the clock to make a difference in the educational landscape of the country. If India succeeds in changing its approach towards education, we have the opportunity of transforming the minds of one sixth of humanity!

Koraputonline.org, 01 March 2012

Comment

Research and Markets: Focus on Increasing Education Coverage to Augment E-Learning Market in India, Finds Netscribes

ICT, Learning Achievements

Mumbai, India – February 20, 2012 – Netscribes (India) Pvt. Ltd., a knowledge consulting solutions company, announces the launch of its report E-Learning Market in India 2012. E-learning market in India is still at a nascent stage and is expected to witness dynamic growth over the next few years. It is an emerging education segment and includes multimedia in private schools, ICT in public schools as well as online education.
The report begins with an introduction to the education market in India and its various sub-segments. Indian education system largely consists of formal and informal sectors, with the formal sector accounting for the major share. A macro overview of the Indian education system is also included, which throws light on some of the key indicators such as literacy rate in India, demographic split in education, budget allocation for education and five year plan outlay for education.

The market overview section gives an insight into the overall education market in India along with the elearning market, their market size and growth. It is followed by the segmentation in the e-learning market, comprising multimedia in private schools, ICT in public schools and online education, along with their respective shares. The value chain, primarily consisting of content suppliers, technology providers and end consumers, is also included. Additionally, an analysis of Porter’s Five Forces provides an insight into the competitive intensity and attractiveness of the market.
An analysis of the drivers and challenges explains the factors leading to the growth of the market including low education coverage, rising demand from various segments, growing pc and internet penetration, increasing government participation and convenience factors. Strong opportunity exists in the market due to low coverage of education in India. This coupled with the fact that demand from other education segments are rising, will drive the e-learning market. The key challenges identified are accreditation and recognition issues, expensive mode of education and lack of awareness and acceptance.

Sunherald.com, 22 February 2012

Comment

In school, barely literate

Government run schools, Learning Achievements, Literacy

– Status of education report ranks Jharkhand way below Bihar
ARTI S. SAHULIYAR
Ranchi, Feb. 18: Out of 10 children in Classes I and II at the state-run schools of Jharkhand, five can’t recognise numbers and alphabets, according to Annual Status Educational Report (ASER) 2011.

Union minister for human resource development Kapil Sibal released the report in New Delhi last month. NGO Pratham, which facilitated it, gave state-wise tabulations to reveal how, after more than two years of the Right to Education Act (2009) which promised compulsory education to all children between 6 and 14 years, primary schoolchildren were actually faring in class.

According to the ASER report — the word was chosen as it means “impact” in Hindi — Jharkhand stands 11 in the list of states, much worse than Bihar at rank 4. Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states, which it deserves to, for 89 per cent of its children in Classes I and II can recognise numbers, 87.3 per cent know their alphabets and 64.5 per cent can do subtractions.

Compared to this, their peers in Jharkhand fare much worse. Only 49.2 per cent recognise alphabets, 49.7 per cent recognise numbers and a mere 41 per cent can attempt two-digit subtractions.

Between September and November, a team of Pratham officials carried out a survey in 22 districts, excluding two. Out of 22, the figures of two districts — Dhanbad and Jamtara — are yet to be compiled. In all, Pratham visited 537 village schools.

Interestingly, compared to 2010, reading and writing abilities of children had gone down in 2011. Even the dropout rate had increased by almost one to 4.7 per cent now.

Sadly, even in Class III, a third of children can’t even read Class I textbooks, and one-tenth can’t recognise numbers and alphabets. Only the brightest 5.8 per cent, a tiny majority, can do divisions.

Kumar Katyayani, convenor of Pratham (Jharkhand) squarely blamed the teachers.

“We came to the conclusion that learning levels of children had taken a nosedive mainly because teachers were seldom in class. They were either on strike or doing panchayat election and census duty,” he said.

The official also blamed the liberalism of the RTE Act to an extent.

“Most students were promoted to the next class without tests. The RTE Act specifies no child can be detained. So it affected learning,” he pointed out.

The ideal student-teacher ratio (30:1), mentioned by the RTE Act, is non-existent. The Jharkhand government had failed to recruit teachers in the primary level within six months.

Another factor that contributed to the dip in learning was the absence of school toilets for girls. “Around 23.4 per cent of schools have no separate provision for girls-only toilets, which discourages attendance,” said the Pratham official.

Another big reason was that most tribal children did not comprehend Hindi. “In Jharkhand, 61.2 per cent of children have one mother tongue and another language in school, which creates confusion,” Katyayani pointed out.

The Telegraph, 18 February 2012

Comment

TN students cut a sorry figure

Learning Achievements, Literacy

CHENNAI: In Tamil Nadu, 99 among 100 children in the age group of 6 to 14 are enrolled in schools. Yet, half of the class III, IV and V students cannot read a simple four-sentence paragraph in Tamil meant for class I. Nor can 45.9 per cent of class I students recognize numbers. These pointers to the appalling quality of education were revealed at the release of Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2011, held here on Saturday.
The ASER 2011 survey, conducted by the Pratham Education Foundation, tested 26,350 rural students in 29 districts of the state for their reading and arithmetic capabilities. In both parameters, the state fell short of the national average, performing better only than Bihar when it comes to reading abilities of Class I-II students.
Busting the myth that government schools were academically inferior to private educational institutions, the report has revealed that the difference in performance between these categories is only little. While 65 per cent of students in private schools in class V couldn’t read a Class II level text, among students in government schools, the number was 68. “This proves that the decision of parents enrolling their kids in private schools for better performance is a choice made of ignorance about the qualitative difference in education between the schools,” explained educationist Dr V Vasanthi Devi, who was present at the event.
While only 48.2 per cent of India’s children in class V can read a story, in Tamil Nadu, the number is much lesser at 32.3 per cent.� The national average in itself has reduced by 5 per cent from last year.
With the Right to Education Act being implemented, it has been revealed that more than half of the schools in the state (52.3 per cent) have the pupil-teacher ratio required by the Act (Two teachers for up to 60 students in Classes I-V). Three-fourth of schools have the required teacher-classroom ratio of the Act — at least one classroom for every teacher. Only 48.4 per cent schools in TN have a usable toilet, while 77.6 per cent have drinking water facilities.
“The report is an indication of the inequality in the country, and efforts should be made to study the qualitative outcome of our education programmes,” said Balaji Sampath, secretary of AID India, whose Eureka Child initiative assisted the survey. N Ram, director of Kasthuri and Sons Ltd, released the report. Also present at the event were Dr G Viswanathan, founder and chancellor of VIT University, Vellore, and educationist Dr S S Rajagopalan.

Ibnlive, 19 February 2012

Comment

Digitisation is making e-learning simple

ICT, Learning Achievements

Though the computer literacy in India is low, some companies are effectively spreading education using digital contents riding on the Internet.

The business of education is all set for a transformation in the country as the government, recently, announced that it will purchase some 100,000 low-cost Aakash tablets from Datawind, the Canadian company that has developed this equipment.

These tablets would then be distributed to schools and colleges in India, where students would get them for free. This move of going the e-way and the limitations the low cost tablet has revealed has seen a lot of criticism all over, however, the e-learning industry in India is going to be one of the biggest game changers in recent times.

E-learning service provider Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) CEO Sanjaya Sharma recalls his experiences when he began his company in 1990. “There was no e-learning then. It was computer-based training along with multimedia training that existed,” says Sharma. However, times changed slowly as TIS began getting clients. One of its first clients was the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) with whom it did a project involving VGA monitors. This product was later sold to 32 other organisations.

Now, the company has many Fortune-500 customers to itself and is also conducting business with universities and publishers abroad. Sharma is very optimistic about the present Indian e-learning market, though he believes that it has just begun to take shape. “Adoption happened much earlier abroad, than in India,” Sharma added.
TIS is coming big on the e-learning in schools with their Tata ClassEdge, a solution for interactive teaching in schools.

Tata ClassEdge is an innovative and comprehensive educational solution from TIS, designed to help teachers deliver quality instruction, with an effective blend of classroom activities and interactive multimedia demonstrations.

For this purpose, the company would be providing its services to partially government-aided schools apart from private schools. Study estimates that there are around 80,000 government schools; 150,000 partially-funded schools and 105,000 government schools in the country. TIS is also going to reach out to government schools soon with a different pricing model within a couple of years.

Through ClassEdge, teachers will have access to lesson plans that they can use to make their classes engaging and memorable. The plans are customised for students and it provides tips to elicit student participation, including reinforcement activities for struggling learners and challenging assignments for high achievers.

Teachers can use animations to explain difficult topics. They can engage children through stories that teach. They could use interactive games to get students to interact with the medium and have fun while learning.

Sharma strongly believes that the education sector in India is going to take advantages of technology in the coming years and will improve in the process. “I definitely feel that technology should be available to every individual,” adds Sharma.
Meanwhile, another institute AVAGMAH (avagmah.org) is making good business with its online learning platform deemed for the higher education space. AVAGMAH offers UGC-recognised degrees for MBA (Global) in sales & marketing, HR management and banking & finance. The education platform is entirely online and the student must attend classes on the Internet.

“The faculty conducts a class and students sit at home, taking lessons. That was my aim and that’s what AVAGMAH offers,” says AVAGMAH Online School CEO Karthik K S. The platform for this online school was developed in 2007 and it had also won an award for innovation from Nasscom, the same year. However, the content generation took another two years and only in 2009, was AVAGMAH ready to deliver education online and commence its first batch. The institute now has more than 6,000 students to its name and the number keeps growing with each passing day.

The ease of access, they feel, is drawing people towards online education as they can log into their classes after their day’s work and have a quick session with the faculty. “Internet can reach places where prevalent education systems cannot. We have students logging in from places like Palanpur in Gujarat and also from places like Guwahati,” explained Karthik. He also says that the content can be delivered on low bandwidth Internet connections making it easier for narrowband users to access it. On the cost factor of such courses and how viable it would be for the not-so-rich sections of India, he pointed out that AVAGMAH offers two-year MBA courses for Rs 40,000 per year.

“Online education is going to drastically change the learning space in India as technology becomes more accessible,” added Karthik.

Karnataka, the state with the most developments happening in the IT space, is no doubt heralding the e-learning spree in India with various initiatives to bring this form of education to all. In the year 2009, NIIT had announced a partnership with the Government of Karnataka (Department of Social Welfare – DSW), the Karnataka Vocational Training & Skill Development Corporation Ltd (KVSTDC) and the Department of Employment and Training (DET) to provide e-learning to young under-graduates residing in DSW hostels.

The vision of this project is to enable the students in the government hostels to use their free time to enhance their skill sets by acquiring some of the soft skills and life skills that are required in most job areas, and in the process, providing the latest learning technologies at the student’s doorstep.

IT major Intel India and the Karnataka Government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, last year, launched ‘Computers on Wheels’, an e-learning pilot programme, in five districts of the state.

The pilot programme includes digital instruction materials from ‘Educomp’, an education solutions provider. The programme enables teachers to utilise a variety of learning strategies and tools to cater to the diverse learning styles and abilities of students, making education more engaging and inclusive for all. Under the ‘Computers on Wheels’ approach, netbooks are housed in a cart and can be moved between classrooms as needed.

Not only has the Internet found a newer way in traditional courses, but it has also made advances in supplementary education. Atano, a Mumbai-based company, has come up with a unique idea of providing e-books for vocational courses on its website. Imagine living cities like Meerut, Shimla, Jaipur, Guwahati, Indore, Cochin or even in the metros, one can download a supplementary e-Book at a click of a button. Supplementary education books can be downloaded on the individual’s Windows PC, Android platform, or even Mac (iPads).

Cost-effective option

Industry experts are of the opinion that this sector has a huge potential and more so, in a country where education finds it tough to reach remote places.

“The country needs e-learning as it is the best way to reach out to millions and moreover this sector is very promising,” says head of IT & ITeS Practice at KPMG, Pradeep Udhas.

He adds that not only in traditional courses, but also in vocational courses, e-learning will be the trend-setter.

Another initiative by Manipal Global Education Services, EduNxt enables interactive learning environment which includes small group mentoring, virtual classrooms, simulation, self-study content, recorded presentations and shared browsing.
Launched by Sikkim Manipal University-Distance Education in 2009, it helps all the Distance Education students through their online platform.

The university believes that it develops a sense of togetherness among the members and different stakeholders of the huge community within the platform.

The platform has functionality which provides a student to interact with 65 core faculty and 6,500 supporting faculty counselors in order to utilise the varied expertise and vast experience of this community.

“We may have progressed from just computer-based learning to technology-enabled solutions in the classroom, but the objective has remained intact, improving the learning experience by making it more engaging,” said Pearson Education Services COO Srikanth B Iyer.

Iyer adds that in their current avatar, e-learning solutions are not seen as replacements for teachers, but aids which will help teachers deliver lessons better, thereby increasing the quality of the learning experience.

However, Centre for Internet & Society Executive Director Sunil Abraham feels that learning should not be restricted to the Internet and interactive classroom sessions but should be made available on mobile phones through audio files as mobile penetration is much higher compared to Internet reach.

“Audio files can also be productive and a learning experience for people who can’t afford the Internet,” explained Abraham.

Deccan Herald, 13 February 2012

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Educating India’s ‘Demographic Dividend’: The Role of the Private Sector

Access to education, Learning Achievements, Quality

The growth prospects of the Indian economy depend to a large extent on how the country tackles certain issues of intellectual capital today. The concern largely centers on the much-debated demographic dividend, or the rising proportion of working-age people in India. The recent One Globe 2012 “knowledge conference” in New Delhi emphasized the role that industry needs to play. Some 54% of India’s 1.2 billion people are under the age of 25. The TeamLease Indian Labor Report 2009 estimates that 300 million will enter the labor force by 2025, and by then, 25% of the world’s workers will be Indians. The National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) is already grappling with the challenge of providing training and retraining to 500 million people by 2022. The non-negotiables to meet the challenge include fundamental education reform across primary, secondary and higher education, and significant enhancement of supplementary skills development.

These were the key concern areas addressed at One Globe 2012: Uniting Knowledge Communities, a conference held in India’s capital recently. Organized in partnership with the United States India Business Council (USIBC), India Knowledge@Wharton, and The International Herald Tribune, the two-day conference provided a platform for policymakers, entrepreneurs, industry associations and academia from across the world. The discussion was largely in line with the philosophy that knowledge and skills are the critical determinants of a country’s economic growth and standard of living. Also, quality, merit-based, equitable and efficient tertiary education and research are essential parts of this transformation.

“The government is not able to keep pace with the kind of solutions emerging in education,” said Kapil Sibal, union minister for human resource development and communications and information technology. “In the next 10 years, the nature of education will change. People across the globe are communicating with each other seamlessly, universities are collaborating digitally…. There are no territorial boundaries to hold back the mind. We are working on the concept of a meta-university, which should hopefully be in place in the next academic session.”

In his keynote address, Sibal described the meta-university as a “Facebook of institutions – an open platform where students will be able to access courses from other universities, interact with international faculty members and, in the process, generate knowledge.” Such an open platform, he said, is the future of education. “To give this idea shape, we have mounted a National Mission on Education through ICT [information and communications technology] to link 25,000 colleges and 2,000 polytechnics for enabling e-learning and content sharing. We have also created the National Knowledge Network (NKN) which will soon link 31,000 colleges…. 1,100 open source courses have already been created,” he added.

The NKN is a state-of-the-art multi-gigabit pan-India network for providing a unified high-speed network backbone for all knowledge-related institutions in the country. Its intent is to make research and development activities and innovations multidisciplinary and collaborative. Sibal also shared his efforts to get the Foreign Education Providers Act cleared.

Roadmap for Higher Education
A report titled, “A Global Perspective on Higher Education in India,” which was produced by the USIBC with YES Bank as the knowledge partner, was also released at the event. Tushar Pandey, president and country head for strategic initiative and government advisory at Yes Bank, elaborated on the 10-point roadmap the report provides for improvement in the higher education space: “The state expenditure needs to improve in order to realize the goal of access, equity and quality in higher education. Emphasis also needs to be laid on the professional development of faculty; increased emphasis on quality research; establishment of innovation universities, and reforms in leveraging information and communications technology in higher education.” He added that to prevent the “commoditization and commercialization of
education, transparent, precise and unambiguous policy guidelines for the private sector are essential….

A tie-up between educational institutions and industry is equally mandatory to raise educational standards, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas. One way could be training [of] faculty by industry experts.” Noting that India’s demographic dividend is “impressive,” USIBC president Ron Somers said higher education has an important role to play in unlocking its potential. “India is the hope of the future,” he stated. “For us to remain competitive in the 21st century, we have to develop knowledge partnerships with countries such as India. India is no longer the back-office of the world. They are adding value to our ideas 24/7.”

Somers also applauded initiatives such as the Jindal Global Law School in the state of Haryana, which was set up to promote global courses, programs, curricula, research, collaboration and interaction through a global faculty. Talking about the concerns of foreign universities entering India, Somers noted: “A university wants to keep its brand pure — to have control of the curriculum, the faculty and the quality of education. There are accreditation issues as well.”
While addressing attendees of a session on India’s demographic challenges in skills development, Raj Dravid, chief operating officer at Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services said his firm has been training people in the poorest districts of Orissa and Chhattisgarh. “Post-training, they get jobs in urban centers such as Bangalore, but they find it difficult to adjust to the urban standard of living,” he pointed out. “Our study indicates that most are able to save and send back home about US$40 [a month]. Such piecemeal approaches won’t work. A comprehensive network that links industry, the trainees and the trainers needs to be created.” Taking Jobs to the People Shashi Kanth, chief operating officer of Centum WorkSkills India, an educational initiative of Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Group, agreed, suggesting that industry could address these issues by creating jobs in places where the people receiving training reside. “Industry is the victim as well as the culprit,” he said.

“It needs to guide us to choose the relevant skills. Otherwise no amount of training will help.” Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, highlighted the paucity of resources for vocational training. “We have embarked on an ambitious project to train 500 million people and the National Skills Development Corporation has been set up to follow this mandate. It is, of course, essential to maintain the present rate of growth in the Indian economy. But adequate resource generation holds the key.”

According to Economic Survey 2007-2008, India’s public expenditure on education was 3.6% of GDP and spending on higher education accounted for just 0.4%. According to India — Higher Education Sector: Opportunities for Private Participation, a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that was released earlier this year, there is a huge opportunity for private participation. “Government resource allocation is inadequate to meet its own targets (a 30% gross enrollment ratio by 2020) leaving enough scope for private participation,” the report said. “The 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) allocation for technical and higher education has been raised almost nine-fold to US$18.8 billion from US$2.1 billion in the Tenth Plan. However, this is still a fraction of the estimated requirements for achieving the targets.”

Creating the Right Environment
In a spotlight session on “Learning to Learn,” Anshul Arora, co-founder and executive director of Edvance Preschools, said the country does not pay enough importance to the right environment for learning. “More emphasis needs to be laid on activity-based experiential learning,” he noted. Arora shared the example of Harvard’s Innovation Lab set up by Dean Nitin Nohria. The initiative seeks to foster team-based and entrepreneurial activities and deepen interactions among Harvard students, faculty and entrepreneurs. Another example of this came from Stephan K. Thieringer, president & CEO of AcrossWorld Education. He talked at length about the Khan Academy, which has brought a digital revolution in the way lessons are imparted. Set up with the goal of changing education by providing free, world-class education to
anyone anywhere, it has delivered 118,613,876 lessons to date. Also discussed was an innovative tool called WikiBhasha. The example was shared by Lokesh Mehra, director of education advocacy at Microsoft India. WikiBhasha is a multilingual content creation tool for Wikipedia. The tool enables contributors to Wikipedia to find content from Wikipedia articles, translate the content into other languages, and then either compose new articles or enhance existing articles in multilingual Wikipedia. Speaking about a key factor that can help Indians compete globally, A. Didar Singh, advisor to the union ministry of overseas Indian affairs, said: “The private sector [has to play] a role in developing curriculum for skills, establishing standards, certification processes and also testing facilities.” Saurabh Johri, program advisor to the Observer Research Foundation, a think-tank added that “Education can be the only
leveler. It is the means to bridge the huge divide that exists between religious groups, castes and regions. Remote and technology-based education will peak in the next decade or two. Education is steadily becoming a private good. Affirmative action on part of the private sector is imperative.”

India Knowledge@Wharton, 09 February 2012

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Students can kill, but our jackpot system is killing education itself

Curriculum Development, Higher Education, Learning Achievements

The murder of a Chennai teacher by her student in full view of her horrified class has raised all kinds of concerns. We ask: are our children becoming too violent; are parents or schools abdicating their responsibilities; is too much violent TV at fault; do our movies promote wrong values?

More pertinent are the questions about our education system: are class sizes too big; are teachers equipped to deal with so many children; are double-income households leaving it all to schools and doing very little parenting themselves; do schools have inadequate counselling facilities; is our rote system and exam pressure to blame when children completely lose it, as the Chennai boy did?

As always, the answer is a yes to all these questions. The moot point is, no one can really know what factor really pushes a child over the edge, and which burden is simply too much to load – onto children, parents and schools.

Taking a helicopter view of the issue, I would say the whole system is driven by twin scarcities: a lack of really good educational institutions compared to demand, and a lack of understanding of the emerging job market.

What this results in is the jackpot mentality among parents. They know that the route to good jobs is only through, first, a good school upto Std X, and, next, through a singular focus on an IIT/IIM education after that. (By IIT/IIM we are only talking of institutions in that quality category, and not specifically the IITs and IIMs. The category could include other private and public educational institutions of equal standing, like the NITs, IIITs, BITS, ISB, etc).

Since the number of seats in IIT and IIM-type institutions is very limited – there are just a few thousand seats against a potential demand from several million candidates – every parent aims for the jackpot. The thought process: ‘To earn big, my child has to compete against the very best, and for this I will put him (and now her) through every kind of coaching class, spend a bomb on education outside school, make her attend all kinds of courses (personality development, how to face an interview, et al).’ Little wonder, both children and parents are driving themselves nuts.

Unfortunately, what makes sense at the individual parent level does not make sense systemically. If every parent pushed her child to jump through hoops all the way from kindergarten to IIT/IIM, 99 percent cannot make it anyway. They don’t get even crumbs. Put another way, we make life hell for 100 percent of our children in the hope that 1 percent will make it.

This is the stupidity of the jackpot system of education. The all-or-nothing system is okay for a lottery, not an education system.

As any lottery ticket vendor will tell you, you buy a ticket just to see if you hit the jackpot. You don’t invest your entire fortune buying up all the tickets so that you are sure you hit the jackpot. If you do, the lottery issuer will always win: there are always more tickets than winnings.

For a saner education system, we need to move away from the jackpot system to one where 99 percent can win something, even if only 1 percent can win big time.

The truth is job realities have already moved in that direction. Today, it is not just doctors, or engineers or bankers who are in demand, but also everyone from gym trainers to tour guides to part-time teachers to actuaries to wedding planners to multi-media journalists to actors, cricket players and what-have-you. Categories of jobs that never existed before are now growing the fastest.

The problem is this: parents don’t know this. Even those who do are unwilling to take chances. The information market still caters to only engineers and doctors and CAs, or else we wouldn’t have parents agonising over IIT-JEEs, AIEEEs, and CETs, not to speak of SATs, CATs, and GMATs.

Thanks to the lottery system, the rich now send their children abroad to avoid it, and the not-so-rich upper and middle classes force their children to learn by rote and somehow crack their entrance exams.

The problem is, even the 1 percent who make it don’t deliver much to the country that invested in them. When you hit the jackpot after working very hard, you go for the big bucks. Our IIT engineers go abroad, our doctors don’t want to go to where they are needed – rural areas and slums. Most engineers who stay back end up being software coders, and doctors end up going for super-specialisations like plastic surgery – where the rich can give them more money. Instead, of doctors, they end up being cosmetic artists.

As I noted some time ago:

India is thus headed for disaster since everyone, from the rich to the poor, is now chasing the same IIT-IIM-engineering-medical jackpot instead of getting a worthwhile education that works in our job market.

The world we are entering – have already entered, in fact – needs people with multiple skills and quick learning and re-learning abilities, but the education system and wrong aspirational culture we have built around the IITs and IIMs are out of sync with reality.

While one answer is to create more IITs and IIMs to cater to demand (it is no one’s case that they are not needed), the real answer – the 1 percent versus 99 percent issue – is to create many, many more quality institutions that train for different kinds of job options, and disseminate information on the same.

Four broad trends will dictate the kind of education system we need:

One, jobs are not for keeps anymore as companies have to constantly adjust for market changes. This means employees have to be more opportunistic than before. They have to be more flexible and adapt to new jobs faster. Parents need to know this as much as children and educators.

Two, new job categories emerge and disappear quicker now as technology changes businesses. This means employees have to be periodically re-skilling themselves. Education has to focus not only on students about to enter the job market, but also on people with jobs today who may not have one tomorrow. We, thus, need an education system that can offer courses off-the-shelf to anyone, anytime.

Three, knowledge is growing obsolete more quickly than before. This means learning and work cannot fall into a neat linear timeline where one learns for the first 20-and-odd years of one’s life and then works till the age of 60 or more. Learning and working have to continue life-long. Both have to be interspersed after school. All employers need to factor learning time into every employee’s job profile.

Four, income and wealth are ephemeral in a world of volatile market movements (Read Alvin Toffler on Revolutionary Wealth). Even fixed income avenues are not safe any more – they can crash or soar in value (example: Greek bonds). Even if you save a lot, its value may shrink or soar with market moods. Thus, your ability to learn and earn is what matters at any age – whatever be your bank or demat account balance may be at any point of time. It can disappear overnight – as many Americans found after the Lehman crisis.

A jackpot education system will produce a society of crackpots and nervous wrecks in this changing world. Look how we waste our education years.

We enter kindergarten around four years of age, and finish 10th standard around age 16. If one excludes a few worthwhile professional courses, the next five years are practically a waste for college-goers – as nothing we learn prepare us for the new world out there.

Among the things we need to rethink are the following issues:

One, should the five years after 10th standard be used both for doing a job, and reskilling, or do we continue with our existing system of going nowhere? A two-year job stint, followed by a course for learning specific skills for the jobs that exist or are growing, would make better sense. The government can help if it encourages companies to hire after Std 10 or 12 – by either incentivising the hiring of apprentices or by mending labour laws to ensure flexible hiring.

Two, college and university education has to move away from sterile degrees and become more flexible to the job market’s needs. This means curricula should be constantly under review and corporations and non-governmental organisations should play a part in their creation. If a new job description is emerging today, a course should be immediately offered by colleges and universities. When some job categories disappear, courses relating to them should be put out to grass.

Three, this degree of flexibility means not only curricula, but even faculty and teachers, need constant reskilling. Or, alternatively, there should be more short-term induction of college professors from the corporate world or relevant work areas.

Four, since career options can open up or reach a dead end any time during one’s lifespan, colleges and universities cannot thus be only tailored to the young. They have to be created for everybody – even 55-year-old grandmoms who need to earn a living or 40-year-old bank cashiers who find that no one comes to the counter anymore.

Five, even professional courses like those for doctors and lawyers need to have short-term and long-term elements built into them. Do we need a five-year MBBS to create high-cost doctors who don’t want to work in rural health centres or shorter-term courses for those willing to work there? The current high-cost MBBS (high capitation fees, and long stretch of study time) is simply not viable for the rural areas. Maybe, Munnabhai MBBS courses are the answer.

Six, we clearly need a very solid information system on jobs and skills from a robust, live, national database where information flows from all potential employers constantly.

If the only options available for a good job are IIT, IIM, medicine, engineering, or law degrees, everyone will head there. This is why Narayana Murthy finds the skills of IITians poor. They are just trying to crack the system.

But the real system is already cracked and broken. But we don’t seem to know it.

Steve Jobs, Dhirubhai Ambani and Bill Gates were either dropouts or not formally educated like your average IIT/IIM alumnus. This clearly proves that success does not necessarily come only from formal education. It comes from within – all we need is to pick up the skills that can enhance our inborn talent.

We need to build an education system that would allow an Ambani or a Gates to take a refresher even after they have earned their millions. Or after they have failed in businesses or careers.

Firstpost.India, 10 February 2012

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It will take 100 years to revamp education!

Curriculum Development, Learning Achievements, Literacy

HYDERABAD: Revamping education system in a country like India will take 50 to 100 years of hard work, believes Professor Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, he was in the city as part of his six-city tour in the country.
The professor of cognitive psychology emphasized that for India, “there are no quick-fix solutions for changing the education system.” Speaking to the media at the Indian School of Business, the educationist spoke of the narrow framework in which educational institutions and learning are judged.
“The observation that if it is not quantified, it is not useful is a fall out of neoliberalist policies of the US and India. Quantifying intelligence does not take into account only school tests. If a child is doing well in school, do not spare a milli-second trying to quantify his abilities. Quantifying the various forms of intelligence helps when a child suffers from learning disabilities,” said the professor whose hypothesis of various forms of intelligences has been adapted across schools in the US to mentor students in a specific skill from a young age.
The professor pointed out that in India, where education is more about competition and less about understanding, the evaluation criteria has its drawbacks.
“There is a funnel problem in India where a large number of students are competing to get into a few elite schools such as the IITs. The admission process in universities in the US is much better as intake is not based on a single test score. It takes into account the candidate’s hobbies, interests and other aspects,” explained Gardner who visited IIT Chennai before his stop in the city.
He also underlined the importance of social capital a child brings to the school.
“Schools cannot foster creativity if they believe in error-free learning,” opined Gardner introducing his hypothesis which talks about five different minds and seven types of intelligences.
Among the five different minds which cover the psychology of an individual, the ‘synthesizing mind’ will be respected in the coming years, observed the cognitive psychologist.
“The ability to correlate information and connect relevant information is the function of a synthesizing mind. But there is also the need to develop an ethical mind,” he said. Sharing an anecdote, he said if students at Harvard were asked to read only one book in their life, he would recommend to them Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, My Experiments With Truth. “It is not the most elegantly written book but captures best the ethical dilemmas an individual faces,” he said.

Ibnlive, 05 February 2012

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